There's not enough written on Houston's thriving independent rap scene. A few local magazines and newspapers have come and gone, and the major hip-hop rags haven't given up much ink on anyone from H-town but the Geto Boys. So it's about time that someone local stepped up to document the happenings within one of the world's biggest rap markets. Rap Illustrated is Houston-centric, but it also delves into other regions in the South. It doesn't worry about the major labels -- this magazine's focus is independence. Billed as "the First Mix-Tape Magazine," each issue comes with a CD with at least 15 new songs from some of the hottest names in underground hip-hop, mostly from Houston. The mag itself is printed on heavy glossy paper, and the photography and layouts are outstanding.

It comes as some surprise that an increasing number of just-turned-bar-legal adults are turning to night-time cycling rather than partying. You can see them, thrift-store-outfitted, cruising the Montrose in intimate packs, looking like defiant, asexual Morrisseys on sparkly retro two-wheelers. Riders usually alert folks of their intentions on public Internet message boards, like www.handsuphouston.com. And after stocking a portable CD/MP3 player with Belle & Sebastian songs, they meet at the arranged supermarket parking lot and proceed to get their ride on. It's unknown what happens afterward. For the sake of youth, it better be a drunken orgy.

It comes as some surprise that an increasing number of just-turned-bar-legal adults are turning to night-time cycling rather than partying. You can see them, thrift-store-outfitted, cruising the Montrose in intimate packs, looking like defiant, asexual Morrisseys on sparkly retro two-wheelers. Riders usually alert folks of their intentions on public Internet message boards, like www.handsuphouston.com. And after stocking a portable CD/MP3 player with Belle & Sebastian songs, they meet at the arranged supermarket parking lot and proceed to get their ride on. It's unknown what happens afterward. For the sake of youth, it better be a drunken orgy.

If anyone else in the world tried to do what Chingo Bling does, it wouldn't work. But he's got the shtick down pat. This comedic genius has taken the Latino hip-hop community by storm and is sure to cross over to the mainstream. When Chingo strolls on stage wearing his ostrich boots with the pimped-out Nike swoosh, tight black jeans, a Virgin Mary shirt, a black cowboy hat, plenty of platinum chains and a belt buckle bigger than a Spanish Flower chimichanga, you can't help but laugh before the guy even opens his mouth. He's like the Weird Al of hip-hop, reworking popular rap tunes into tales of getting rich in the tamale game, rolling with his pet rooster (which he does generally bring with him to his gigs) and dodging la migre. His underground mix CDs sell from here to Seattle and all points in between, and his debut full-length, What Did He Said?, will be out before year's end.

If anyone else in the world tried to do what Chingo Bling does, it wouldn't work. But he's got the shtick down pat. This comedic genius has taken the Latino hip-hop community by storm and is sure to cross over to the mainstream. When Chingo strolls on stage wearing his ostrich boots with the pimped-out Nike swoosh, tight black jeans, a Virgin Mary shirt, a black cowboy hat, plenty of platinum chains and a belt buckle bigger than a Spanish Flower chimichanga, you can't help but laugh before the guy even opens his mouth. He's like the Weird Al of hip-hop, reworking popular rap tunes into tales of getting rich in the tamale game, rolling with his pet rooster (which he does generally bring with him to his gigs) and dodging la migre. His underground mix CDs sell from here to Seattle and all points in between, and his debut full-length, What Did He Said?, will be out before year's end.

Landmark River Oaks Theatre
This lovely movie palace -- really, it has to be described that way -- is an antique in a city that doesn't normally cherish old things. Built in 1939, it's the only theater in town that's gotten its very own mayoral proclamation. (River Oaks Theatre Day was March 26, 2000, in case you forgot to celebrate.) Its memorable red art deco marquee lights up the West Gray strip, and its three theaters show the current hits as well as underground art-house features and foreign films you won't find anyplace else. If you're looking for something even more offbeat, check the place out on weekends at midnight, when everything from the John Hughes classic Pretty in Pink to Spike and Mike's Twisted Festival of Animation graces the silver screen. When you toss in the stellar snack bar and the fact that River Oaks hosts Houston's annual Academy Awards-watching party, there's simply no way any other theater can compete.
This lovely movie palace -- really, it has to be described that way -- is an antique in a city that doesn't normally cherish old things. Built in 1939, it's the only theater in town that's gotten its very own mayoral proclamation. (River Oaks Theatre Day was March 26, 2000, in case you forgot to celebrate.) Its memorable red art deco marquee lights up the West Gray strip, and its three theaters show the current hits as well as underground art-house features and foreign films you won't find anyplace else. If you're looking for something even more offbeat, check the place out on weekends at midnight, when everything from the John Hughes classic Pretty in Pink to Spike and Mike's Twisted Festival of Animation graces the silver screen. When you toss in the stellar snack bar and the fact that River Oaks hosts Houston's annual Academy Awards-watching party, there's simply no way any other theater can compete.
Dinner and a movie just got easier. The Alamo Drafthouse shows first-run features as well as repertory films usually showcasing a specific genre, like zombie flicks or chicks-in-prison movies. It also offers a full menu and a good selection of imported and domestic draft beers. You get served right there at your seat in the theater (there are tables), and you communicate with the waitstaff through writing so as not to disturb your neighbors. An employee won't bother you unless you specifically flag one with your paper. This great system makes for a comfortable moviegoing experience. Letting us drink beer in the theater is wonderful. Now if only they'd add smoking screenings.

Dinner and a movie just got easier. The Alamo Drafthouse shows first-run features as well as repertory films usually showcasing a specific genre, like zombie flicks or chicks-in-prison movies. It also offers a full menu and a good selection of imported and domestic draft beers. You get served right there at your seat in the theater (there are tables), and you communicate with the waitstaff through writing so as not to disturb your neighbors. An employee won't bother you unless you specifically flag one with your paper. This great system makes for a comfortable moviegoing experience. Letting us drink beer in the theater is wonderful. Now if only they'd add smoking screenings.

For more than 20 years the Margarett Root Brown Reading Series has been an oasis for those who crave the literary arts. Presented by Inprint, Inc. and the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, this series of readings and talks has brought some of the best writers on the planet to the Bayou City: Salman Rushdie, Sandra Cisneros and Seamus Heaney, to name just a few. Last year's event featuring Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa at UH's Cullen Performance Hall was almost standing-room-only -- and no wonder; tickets go for the ridiculously cheap price of $5 (thanks to generous subsidies from several Houston corporations). Best of all, the series aims for diversity: Female authors and writers of color always make up a generous portion of the schedule.

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